Tundra Swans

Tundra Swans Page

For many people, fall is not complete without viewing the melodious tundra swans. Swans begin arriving daily in mid-October, and building to a peak population by mid-November. Migrating day and night, their woo-hoo, woo-hoo call can be heard across the river.

  • Identifying Swans

    Tundra Swans 150x118

    Adults are white with black bills; the young called cygnets are grey with pink bills


  • Best Viewing Locations

    Brownsville Overlook south of Brownsville, MN, on Hwy 26; Shady Maple Overlook south of La Crosse, WI, on Hwy 35, Rieck’s Lake north of Alma, WI on Hwy 35; Weaver Bottoms north of Minnieska, MN on Hwy 61

  • When are they here?

    During fall migration, mid-October through freeze-up 20% of the eastern population visit the refuge. Up to 50,000 can be seen resting and feeding at one time.

  • Why are they here?

     The refuge provides nourishment for swans on their migration. The starchy bulbs or tubers of plants like arrowhead (duck potato), wild celery and sago pondweed are the main course. The tubers buried in the river bottom are dislodged by the swans large webbed feet. With their long necks they can reach the tasty morsels. Ducks often feed close taking advantage of the leftovers.

  • Where do they winter?

    On the Atlantic Coast from New Jersey to South Carolina where they feed on shellfish, waste corn, soybeans and winter wheat.

  • Are swans here during spring migration?

    A small number stop for a short time before returning to their breeding grounds on the tundra of Canada and Alaska.